John Septimus Roe Anglican Community School is an independent school that places a special emphasis on helping students develop relationships within the school and the wider community. The school wanted to extend its education and school management into the digital realm, delivering rich media resources, providing collaboration tools for project work, and encouraging online communication between students, parents and teachers. In 2008, the school began preparation for the first Australian roll-out of an integrated education platform – Kaleidos Learning Platform – based on Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server and Microsoft SQL Server. Teachers are beginning to develop digital course content and have learned how to set, mark and record student progress online. Parents will be able to use the school portal to get access to their children’s results or for news on school events, and students will begin to use online spaces to collaborate with classmates.
John Septimus Roe is an Anglican community school in Western Australia. As an independent school run under the auspices of the Anglican School Commission, John Septimus Roe is tasked with providing education in the Anglican tradition, accessible to children from a diverse range of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.
The school comprises approximately 130 teachers and 2,000 children, aged from kindergarten to Year 12. Run by a school council that includes church, parent and community representatives, the school places a special emphasis on students’ engagement with the community.
“We have a strong emphasis on pastoral care and a concern for each student as an individual,” says Deputy Principal, David Hill. “That means we have a focus on helping students build relationships. For us, relationships are the bedrock of education.”
Most of the school’s students either use, or have access to, laptop computers. This encouraged the school to think about how to foster students’ relationships in the online space.
Although the school had a variety of administration and information systems, it lacked the means of providing access to students and parents, and it didn’t have any platform for helping students and teachers collaborate online.
||All schools are looking at ways they can embrace technology to improve the teaching and learning process.
||David Hill, Deputy Principal, John Septimus Roe
“We had a staff and student intranet for providing policy documents, calendars and reporting schedules, but it was not interactive,” says Hill. “In addition, there was a management information system for school information, contact information, billing and timetables.”
What John Septimus Roe wanted was to be able to put calendar information in the same place as all school communication to help parents use online media to engage with the school and students’ progress, and to exploit the potential for online technologies to enhance the way students interact with each other, teachers and educational resources.
“All schools are looking at ways in which they can embrace technology to help the fundamental purpose of schools, which is education. What we were hoping for was something that young people could engage with from kindergarten upwards.
“Our focus was very much on getting information to flow electronically because then our communication and teaching can help build the relationships that will keep the whole community engaged.”
The existing school information system used a database called MAZE, built by education software specialist RM.
“In 2008, the school asked us to go in and review how they were using it,” says Simon Jones, Sales and Marketing, RM – Asia Pacific Pty Ltd. “But they also wanted to talk about developing a portal to improve how information was disseminated outside the school.”
RM had developed an integrated education database, portal and course management platform. Called ‘The Kaleidos Learning Platform’, RM had recently won a government tender in Scotland to provide the world’s first country-wide learning platform, benefiting over 750,000 pupils. RM decided to give a demonstration of Kaleidos to the school’s principal.
“The portal is based on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server,” says Jones. “This provides remote access to information and resources, together with communication and collaboration tools. There is also an integrated Virtual Learning Environment built by RM, that helps teachers to create and deliver media-rich courses and assignments.
||When we saw the Kaleidos product, we realised the potential,” says Hill. “The principal was very interested in piloting this technology in Australia.
||David Hill, Deputy Principal, John Septimus Roe
“The solution provides robust data exchange, using Microsoft’s BizTalk Server, allowing data from the existing MAZE database to be integrated with other applications through the portal, so that external stakeholders can gain access to information. Finally, there is an assessment module that helps teachers to record students’ goals, targets and progress and analyse this data.”
The product, as well as the concept, was innovative. RM had to deliver a series of presentations on how the platform worked, including to the school council, who, in August 2008, gave the go-ahead for a pilot to be launched.
“When we saw the Kaleidos product, we realised the potential,” says Hill. “The principal was very interested in piloting this technology in Australia.” In terms of infrastructure, RM provided hosting of the platform at a tier 3 data centre in Australia.
Access was controlled by Microsoft Active Directory and Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2006 allowed safe and secure access to the information stored in the portal.
At the end of October 2008, 32 heads of department were given an overview session of the platform, and starting in 2009, teachers began to assemble digital course content in the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). In addition, the school began to set up a series of school and department ‘Interest Spaces’. Configured as interactive web pages, Interest Spaces can host a variety of web parts including photos, surveys, news items and discussions, and be used to broadcast information to parents and maintain numerous school calendars.
The Kaleidos Learning Platform implementation will enable John Septimus Roe to fulfill its mission by cultivating education and engagement with students in the online space. They can interact with rich media course material and teachers can develop and store large repositories of sophisticated course content. Meanwhile, parents can gain access to school assessments and scheduling, giving them the chance to be far more involved with their own children’s performance and the school in general.
Taking the media to Gen Y
The RM Kaleidos Learning Platform will change the way students work, enabling them to produce more sophisticated project material and build up their own portfolio of work which can be shared with others.
“This will become a motivating tool for students,” says Hill. “They can work in their familiar media, which is also safe and protected.
“For group work, the students can collaborate on different components of the same project. Plus we can create self-marking tests electronically. Or if a student is absent for a protracted period, the teacher can keep them up to date with what has been covered in class.”
Recreating or supplementing existing courses in an online format has required some additional effort, but teachers stand to recoup the investment as the subsequent repeat of each course requires minor modification or enhancement. In the meantime, the platform can be used to aggregate and track individual and group performance.
“Teachers are always looking to improve the efficiency of their workload, and in the long term, this will help them to be much more effective,” says Hill. “Once the core material is established electronically in the VLE, it will be much easier for them to make modifications, edits or improvements.
“But the exciting thing will be how relationships between students and teachers develop. Some online lessons will be interactive and we will use it heavily for homework – to send it out, assess it and provide feedback. Students can build up their own electronic portfolios and teachers can encourage them to compare their own work with their fellow students and learn from them.”
The capability of making a large proportion of school activities and administration available online will help John Septimus Roe bring parents closer to the school and all aspects of education.
“I see that education is about parents being involved – seeing what we are doing and why we are doing it,” says Hill. “They will be able to see how their sons and daughters are progressing, because they have access to individual marks and school-wide data.
“This is important because of the lifestyles that most parents lead. Whilst they can still ring up the school or make an appointment to get information, there will be the opportunity to source information online. The platform will be their main communication avenue and they will be able to access what they want at the time they need it.”
The school believes that its integrated online Kaleidos Learning Platform will help students develop the positive and productive relationships they will need to prosper.
“Relationships are about talking to people,” says Hill. “Whilst sitting down face-to-face will always be an important way in which we build relationships, online spaces are the medium of now and the future. So we have to build school communications around this medium.
“Similarly, there will always be a place and role for the classroom teacher in the teaching and learning process, but we have to recognise that the young people of today have embraced online technology as a way of absorbing information. My sense is that they will drive this more than we will.”
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For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services in Australia, call 13 20 58.
For more information about RM Asia Pacific Pty Ltd products and services, call +61 8 6466 2999 or visit the Web site at: www.rmap.com.au
For more information about John Septimus Roe products and services, call + 61 8 9247 2242 or visit the Web site at: www.jsracs.wa.edu.au